The thrift stores have been kind to me– all those fledgling pandemic collections getting cleared out by the puzzle tourists. Well, I’m here. I’m ready. I’ve been around the puzzle game a long time and I’m making my moves now to set up a stash for life.
Recently acquired was this fine thing:
New York Puzzle Co makes some of the most attractive puzzles in the industry. The majority of their puzzles are drawn from magazine or book cover art that they curate into absolutely gorgeous little lines of puzzles. They run the gamut from gorgeous to nostalgic to quirky to retro cool.
In fact, I still remember a particular puzzle from them that I think may be the most beautiful puzzle I’ve ever done.
Here’s more from the same line. I mean, c’mon. These are just stunning.
So, I think maybe I’ve convinced you that the visuals are totally there. How’s the hands on experience with one their puzzles? Let’s begin with the box.
The cover looks quite nice, all the the info is visible at a glance and intuitively placed. The paper is linen finish, same as the pieces, with a very nice satin sheen– mostly matte but just enough gloss to prevent dirt and oil from marring the image. Box strength is pretty much standard, nothing remarkable one way or the other.
The Made In USA logo is obvious but unobtrusive. I’d also note that despite being a panoramic puzzle, they have kept the box as a more standard size. I personally like this because I think those long, narrow panoramic boxes are unwieldy and annoying to store.
The vertical storage view also looks very good. Box color looks so good with the image outtake. The title is front and center and piece count, company logo, and even the GM licensing emblem are fitted and arranged pleasingly.
Second option for vertical storage, for shorter shelves. I think this view is even nicer than the one above. Clean and simple. The soft gradient on the background keeps the palette pure while creating just a touch of movement.
Horizontal storage, again, looks very good. Love that they fit the entire image on there.
The back is……uhhh…..the weakness of this box haha. It’s so crowded, kinda looks a mess.
I guess I’m mostly okay with it, the parts of the box on display look great after all. But I do think the cramped appearance and that display of other available puzzles cheapens the overall appearance.
Here’s where I’m gonna do a bit of a tangent. I have a gripe about NYPC’s boxes. Their boxes are horribly inconsistent in design. While any given box will probably look good on its own, the consistency across the brand is absolutely atrocious.
Look at how horrible these look on the shelf together. There is absolutely no way to store New York Puzzle Co’s puzzles together on the shelf in any way that is pleasing.
The placement of various elements changes between puzzles, the size and style of image outtakes vary across the boxes, the iconography associated with the piece count changes between each puzzle. I literally hide these boxes at the back of my collection because they look SO BAD.
Now, check out this little gallery of consistent box design.
Galison is one of THE best in the game at shelf appeal. They use a few simple tricks to keep everything tight, 1) the proportion of space allotted for the title vs. image inset, 2) minimalist design, and 3) their somewhat unique peekaboo box style. Notice that the image is ALWAYS in the same spot and nearly always of the same size, then the image is ALWAYS underlined by the ‘galison’ name. To the left, the remaining space is used ONLY for the title and piece count. This layout printed on those signature boxes allows them to mix up the fonts, title sizing, text layout and and box colors while still creating one of the most cohesive looking collections on the shelf. Truly brilliant in its simplicity and effectiveness.
Buffalo Games has also done an excellent job at maintaining a consistent look over time. Their solution is less elegant than Galison, but the results can’t really be argued with. Those two bands of color across the top and bottom edges makes such a strong line for the eye that it easily glosses over design adjustments, the black vs white backgrounds, and the different title styles used above the box image. The color-coding to piece count is a feature I really love– for a serious puzzler it really does make a difference in storing and finding a given puzzle.
Ravensburger has maintained their signature blue corner across time and products, including their games, puzzles, and activity kits. They are remarkably consistent even as box sizes and design updates have changed over the decades. I have a puzzle from 1984 with that same blue corner that looks perfectly at home with the boxes from just a year ago. Note that the plotting of image, piece count, logo from left to right is also maintained across all box sizes.
These are all fine examples showing different ways a brand can create a cohesive appearance across their line. I always think of NYPC as an art brand company, they clearly have a minimum standard of artistic quality and composition for their puzzles, and usually those types of puzzle brands are VERY good at the little design details. But suffice to say, for now, NYPC’s puzzles will continue to live in the dark corners of my collection.
Anyway, after that sidebar. On to the matter at hand.
How are the pieces?
Overall the pieces are quite nice. They have the same satin linen finish as the box. They are nice and thick and cut with a variety of innie and outie combinations. I bought this puzzle used and still didn’t encounter a single piece with lifting edges. The back of the pieces are crisply cut without any fuzzy edges.
So, the pieces on an individual level are very nice. However, I definitely had a lot of problems with false fits. I was kind of getting angry.
Look at those outies on the right sides of the pieces. Those are very similar in shape, including the curve going back into the piece.
There’s a tiny gap at the blue arrow indicating, upon close inspection, a false fit. But also look at the yellow arrow that points at that bit of piece extension. It looks like that would indicate it’s the wrong piece, right?
Here’s the correct piece. You see here the yellow arrow pointing out an almost identical piece extension.
NYPC’s pieces are random cut. Meaning that the corners of the pieces don’t meet. All the pieces stick up to different heights. You can’t use corner matching, aka the pieces meeting level at the corners, as a clue as to whether the fit is correct. The very similar outie shape combined with the random cut made false fits a really bad problem.
Let’s move on. Though, I forgot to take photos of all my sort piles before I started. My bad.
For the initial sort I pulled out the yellow car, the brown dock, the grey sails, and the sky. All the rest went into the leftover pile.
The edge was kind of a nightmare. The false fits, combined with long stretches of solid color made it a frustrating endeavor. Four times I found myself holding the last edge piece only to see that it didn’t fit.
The yellow car, the row of blue sky that connects to the edge, and the wooden decking were also full of aggravation. I’d pull pieces for the yellow car that would legitimately fit in four or five spots. Barring image clues, I really had to wait until I had at least two adjoining pieces already placed in order to be confident in my placement.
It’s such a disappointment because the pieces themselves are really super nice. They lay so smoothly on the surface and the finish is one of the best I’ve seen, even when compared to other linen finish puzzles.
The finished puzzle looks very good. I don’t display puzzles, but for those that do, this one would look fantastic on a wall.
Here’s a somewhat horizontal view to show how nicely flat the pieces lay. The pieces have almost no rounding along the cut edges, there’s very little glare, and no lifting corners so it looks smooth, almost prim.
Final thoughts. They make a beautiful puzzle, of that there is no question. Being made in the USA is always a selling point I can get behind, as well as considering the long term environmental impacts of the product. The linen finish they use is probably in the top 5 I’ve ever encountered. So there is plenty to recommend. And yet…..
This is a brand that perennially disappoints me. The mismatched boxes from such an art focused brand are just the beginning.
They are banger at image selection, they make these top notch pieces….but then the false fits are insane, and that’s a REALLY BIG barrier to enjoying a puzzle. The piece fit is loose which makes the false fit problem even worse, AND makes it impossible to move small sections as a whole. You have to transfer the pieces one by one.
Another thing, that most beautiful puzzle I featured at the top was missing four pieces and when I asked what to do about it, they replied that if it wasn’t my fault then I could return it. I was a bit taken aback by that being the response right out of the gate, like, turn it back on the customer! I mean, it’s not a big deal, but it’s not exactly the response you want to hear, is all.
I think what it comes down to is that they always hold such promise, but I am disappointed by the experience EVERY time I complete one. In the end, I almost completely avoid their puzzles. I even avoid browsing their website because the images are so damn good, it makes me glum to miss out on them.
The kicker is that their prices are just too high. $22.00 for 1000 pieces. For that price the false fit problems need to be improved. Puzzling is purely recreational and if the experience of completing the thing is emotionally similar to troubleshooting icloud photo sync, well that’s not any type of recreation that I want.
Until the loosy goosy, random cut, false fit problems are fixed it is simply not a premium experience. To much aggravation.
Still, for anyone who hasn’t tried their puzzles before I would recommend trying at least one. As I’ve mentioned, they do plenty of stuff well, and if you display puzzles, the headache of false fits could totally be worth how amazing it will look hung on the wall. Their production also seems a little inconsistent so you might even end up with a totally ideal experience. I do think they have improved their quality over time, so getting it just right maybe right around the corner.
But for me, for now, I stick to thrift store finds with an image I completely love.
On the headphones: